The temperature in mesh networking will increase next week, as Cisco jumps into the market.
On Monday Cisco will launch an outdoor Wi-Fi mesh product designed to sit on lamposts and create outdoor Wi-Fi hotzones. Tropos, the company that is already involved in unwiring cities including Philadelphia is expected to hit back with a bolstered product line.
Cisco's entry into the mesh arena has been much anticipated. Airespace, the Wi-Fi company it acquired early this year was already developing a mesh product at the time. Even more clearly, so many cities are now preparing to blanket themselves in Wi-Fi, that it has become the kind of market that Cisco simply cannot ignore.
The Cisco product will include nodes that can be mounted on lamp-posts, and gateways that link to the wired network, according to US site CRN. Despite this municipal-sounding design, Cisco is apparently aiming the product at enterprises needing to unwire an outdoor space, as well as at cities.
As an existing vendor, Tropos is scathing: "New entrants to this market often make the mistake of believing that what works for the campus will work for the metro," said Tropos spokesman Scott Green. "With five years of development experience, nearly three years of deployment experience and more than 250 installation, we know that this is not the case. "Cisco is today where we were three years ago - they don't even know what they don't know."
Like all mesh products, Cisco's will self-optimise and self-configure. It will use a proprietary mesh scheme - called Adaptive Wireless Path Protocol - to do so. The name sounds strikingly similar to Tropos' Predictive Wireless Routing Protocol; both are proprietary because the IEEE 802.11s mesh standard is still in its very early stages.
"Based on Cisco's contributions to the 802.11s standard committee, we believe that AWPP will have a problem because it is based on Spanning Tree," said Green. "Layer 2 based networks in general and Spanning Tree networks in particular have been proven to not scale because bridging protocol overhead grows with the number of devices in the network and because upper layer protocol overhead propagated widely throughout the network."
According to reports, the Cisco product will consist of an Aironet 1500 access point, costing aroung $4,000, which can be powered from streetlamps, and a gateway that can link up to 32 of these access points to the Internet. The system will apparently support both 802.11a and 802.11b/g, using the former for backhaul and the latter for access.
"Those price points are very high," said Green. Based on their radio specs, we estimate that they will need 50 to 100 APs to cover a square mile. At $4,000 per AP, this works out to $200,000 to $400,000 per square mile." Controllers would add to this price, he said.
Despite this, Tropos apparently has no intention of resting on its laurels. In an announcement booked for the same day as Cisco's, it is expected to launch a whole new generation of its own product line, with which it hopes to keep one jump ahead in the technology race.